In my never ending quest to find the best way to share all my media in my house, I have tried just about everything. I finally settled on using stand alone PCs hooked up to each TV for playing shared media because this offers the most options, but it is also the most expensive. Well, not everyone can afford a $300 PC for each of their TVs, so I am looking for something less expensive. This is when I ran across the D-Link Boxee Box.
- Two-sided RF remote control with 4-way D-pad navigation and a full QWERTY keypad
- SD Card Reader
- Innovative design
- HDMI out
- 2 USB 2.0 ports
- Ethernet and 802.11n wireless
The look of the Boxee Box is definitely unique. It looks like a partially-sunken cube, which may be cute, but not all that efficient. I would have preferred something flatter, or thinner, so that it could more easily be hidden away. Right now I cannot hide the Boxee Box behind my TV without the TV being really far away from the wall.
The entire outside of the Boxee Box is extremely simple. The top has a single power button, and the right side has a single SD card slot. The back is where the connectors are, but even that is very sparse. On the back is 1 Ethernet port, 1 HDMI out, 1 Optical Audio out, 1 pair of Analog audio out, a power port, and 2 USB ports.
D-Link also included a optical, and analog audio ports. These can be useful if you have run out of HDMI ports in your receiver. You can instead run the HDMI to your TV and one of the audio types to your receiver. However, it would seem better to provide these ports in a dongle cable (http://img.bestdirect.ca/images/AVERMEDIA/MTVHDDVRR/MTVHDDVRR_1.jpg) so the Boxee box could be made more compact. If D-Link could get it down to the size of the Apple TV, that would be really great.
The design of the remote is also quite unique, and this is a good unique. The remote is double sided, with some simple controls on one side, and a full QWERTY keyboard on the other. The remote is also very lightweight so you arm does not get tired while holding it. The only change I would probably make is to include a back button on the front side of the remote, instead you have to press the menu button and go all the way back to the beginning.
Installing the D-Link Boxee Box was a snap. I simply plugged in the power, HDMI, and an Ethernet cable, and turned it on. Once it started up it immediately detected an update and started downloading it. Once the update was done it went directly to the main screen and was ready to be used.
I got the Boxee Box because I wanted to replace my PC, which I used to play recorded TV and ripped DVDs, so playing local content is really important. So when I saw the main menu and it listed things like Shows and Movies I thought this might just work out. However, before I could play local media, I had to tell the Boxee Box where that media was located. This is done in the settings, which at first is not easy to find. It is represented by a small gear that appears when you press the menu button on the remote.
However, after adding the files I was disappointed to see that they did not show up in the Movies, and Shows lists. Instead, I had to go to the Files list to find them. Later, I discovered that the Movies and Shows menus had a sub menu called files. I suppose this is where they are suppose to appear, but only the Movies list worked. Their must be some criteria that I am not getting on my recorded TV because I never could get any files to appear here.
Watching DVDs was simple and easy. I never had any trouble with the movie not playing smoothly or anything. However, watching recorded TV was a bit of a challenge. It seems the Boxee Box is able to decode some formats of recorded TV really well, and others not so well. In Windows XP and Vista the recorded TV format was .dvr-ms, but in Windows 7 Microsoft changed it to .wtv. The older format plays just fine on the Boxee Box, but the new format does not. So I had to find another program that would convert from wtv to dvr-ms. This wasn’t a huge issue since it is built into Windows 7, but it was something I had to manually start for each show and that was a pain.
Even though I could not get any of my own files to appear in the Shows, or Movies menus there was plenty of online material. The Boxee software pulls shows and movies from several different sources, some are free and others are not. Several times I found a movie that I wanted to watch, but when I clicked on it, I discovered that it required a paid account with some website. This was annoying for a while until I discovered that I could turn off the paid shows. When you are in the Shows or Movies screens you can click the top right button (it looks like 4 circles), and it will bring up a menu with free and premium sources that you can check or uncheck depending on what you want. I unchecked all the premium sources so I never had to worry about accidentally clicking on a movie that cost money.
Another Screen on the Boxee Box is called Apps. This screen lets you install a small specialized app that can assist you in finding and using media.
The other screens on the Boxee Box are Friends and Watch Later. I suppose these can be useful but I didn’t use them much. When I want to watch a show I watch it right away. Also I don’t really care what others are watching, so sharing with friends does not make sense.
Support and Warranty
The D-Link Boxee Box comes with a 1 year warranty. Considering that their are no moving parts, I am really disappointed. I would think a much longer term would be appropriate.
So far I am happy. I cannot quite say the Boxee Box is perfect, but with a little bit of learning and tweaking it is serving its purpose. I would certainly change the design to be more flat so that it could hide behind or under a TV better. Also the menus need to be more customizable. I would like to be able to sort the DVDs and put them into seperate lists for kids and adults without having to move the actual files (like a play list). However, for $180 I think I can live with some flaws.
|JusTech'n editors' rating|